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Legislature Considers Screen Time Public Health Measure


It was Video Game Industry Day at the State Capitol. But, there is one bill pending at the state legislature that is aimed at improving the lives of children who spend a lot of time on their electronic devices.

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Lauren Pair, Screen Time researcher

The average youth in Hawai’i spends 3 hours a day playing video games.  That, according to a local study.  Lauren Paer, a researcher, says studies involving screen time, the time a child spends on electronic devices, are quite alarming.

“They’re showing some really concerning trends and correlations with mental health issues, with problems in school, with Autism and it’s the root cause of more problems with interpersonal skills because it’s displacing so much time that kids used to spend talking or interacting with others.  And, so, it’s kind of robbing some of these important foundations.”

Paer also notes that prolonged screen time and a sedentary lifestyle can also lead to obesity.  So she helped write Senate Bill 433 as a staffer for Senator Russell Ruderman.  He introduced the bill, the first of its kind, which asks for funding for a public health campaign targeting children and families to encourage them to have balance in their lives.

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Sen. Russell Ruderman

“It’s so ironic that technology and social media was intended to bring people together. But, it has the effect of isolating us now.  We’re all on our own with our screen.  And, I fear that our kids are growing up without understanding the importance of real social interaction and not understanding how to put the people who are in front of them, first.”

But, the video industry, which had 43 billion dollars in game sales last year, says it’s doing its part to help parents be parents.  Tom Foulkes is vice president for the Entertainment Software Association.

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Tom Foulkes, vice president for the Entertainment Software Association

“The Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony, all the major consoles, come with parental controls that can help parents manage screen time.  The time they play, the titles they play, the amount of money that they spend or no money at all.  So we are recognized by the Federal Trade Commission as having one of the most robust self-regulatory system.”

Senate Bill 433 must clear the Ways and Means Committee to make it to the first crossover to the House March 7th.  Screen Time researcher, Paer, says the measure doesn’t target parents but involves the whole family in determining the role of technology in their lives.

“The powerful thing here is that when kids push back with screen time limits, often times, they will complain about the hypocrisy, right?  So, if parents acknowledge and put their behavior on the table, too.  Not that they need the same rules as kids.  They’re parents but just willing to discuss it and acknowledge that they should have some limits, too.  Kids appreciate that.  So, I do think that families can use this to bring the family closer and make your children and yourself healthier.”

For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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